NAACP, Deters and Archie Bunker
NAACP President Christopher Smitherman sent out a press release this morning blasting Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' essay in Cincinnati Gentlemen magazine, the one in which Deters wrote, among other things, that he wouldn't let his teen-age son go to the Main Street entertainment district.
Smitherman wants an apology from Deters. Here's what he wrote this morning:
"Joe Deters, the Hamilton County Prosecutor, made some comments that were in the local newspaper on Monday. He stated that he does not allow his son to hang out in downtown Cincinnati because going there is like going to Jurassic Park. As a parent, Joe Deters can make whatever decisions he chooses regarding his son. President of the Cincinnati NAACP Branch, Christopher Smitherman, questions Deters' reference of what Deters deemed representative of dinosaurs in the downtown area right on the backdrop of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
Smitherman believes the comments to be very inflammatory, reckless, and derogatory.
"I have not commented until now because I was waiting for the white leadership to bring comment on Deter's inappropriate language," he said. Smitherman also stated that the White community often calls out for black leadership to dispute what they deem as "inappropriate statements or behaviors" by other blacks. So, after three days he is now asking, "Where's the white leadership to dispute Deters?" Smitherman asserts that there isn't any difference between the language that Prosecutor Deters used and the language used by the prosecutor in Jena, Louisiana last year.
Cincinnati has two large, national conventions committed to coming downtown this summer: the NAACP Convention and the National Baptist Convention. Each group anticipates about 10,000 largely African-American attendees. Yet, the most prominent County official is not advancing those efforts when he describes where those 20,000 guests will be convening as Jurassic Park. He makes these remarks two weeks prior to a retreat of the NAACP board members to Cincinnati for a major planning session for its National Convention in July.
Joe Deters may be intentional in downgrading a major section of Hamilton County or he may be truly speaking from his heart. Whatever the case may be, Smitherman said do not condemn him when he tells the story of the oppression of Black America in Cincinnati on the national stage come July. Cincinnati's story includes this fact (Deters' Jurassic Park comment) and other facts such as the County Prosecutor's unwillingness to hire African-American lawyers in his office (less than 7 of 111), his over-prosecution of African-American defendants which was validated by a recent report that African-Americans in Hamilton County, Ohio were 10 to 12 times more likely to be prosecuted and convicted compared to White citizens. Smitherman is wondering where is the outrage from the broader White leadership?
Joe Deters is one of the candidates that is running unopposed in November per the deal struck between the Democratic and Republican Parties. He says he's aware that the County Prosecutor is influencing the selection of judges. For example, the affirmative action appointment of Judge Penelope Cunningham (the wife of radio talk show host, Bill Cunningham) over more qualified, even African-American, candidates. Smitherman claims that Joe Deters simultaneously worked to get his own mother-in-law appointed to a judgeship as well. Cincinnati's little town mentality exudes through such decision-making. The same players assign other small town thinkers like themselves, better yet in their families, to authoritative positions. This is not a strategy that will be successful in marketing our region to a global economy.
Like most prosecutors, Joe Deters does not prosecute White citizens who are driving into the city to buy and use drugs; who are running meth labs in affluent suburbs; who have committed violent acts (the white teenager who killed his brother with a baseball bat); or white professionals who engage in white collar crime (sexual harassment by former prosecutor Mike Allen and police officer Keith Fangman). The philosophy appears to be that if you are inside the power structure, you will avoid prosecution. Instead, these White citizens receive extensive rehabilitation services or diversion programs while African-Americans are sent to jail with extensive sentences.
"What Joe Deters said on Monday, how he said it, and how he does his job is completely outrageous. I refuse to accept the image and implications that the face of crime is Black America. What I do acknowledge is an under-prosecution of White America. It is my hope that the media will report that there is an opposing perspective to what Joe Deters said unless it desires for the image of Cincinnati to be that the 'Queen City' is really 'Jurassic Park'." said Smitherman. "This is a typical example of why Cincinnati is often thought to be 20 years behind the times. Deters' comments are remnants of something that the character Archie Bunker would say. He owes the region an apology."